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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Absurdist Drama Adds Prestige Character

Previously on The Mets

“Eleven in a row! This is the year, baby!”

“Oh no. Who’s hurt now?”

“Sure, the pitching’s great, but they can’t score to save their lives.”

“They’re never gonna win another game, are they?”

“We’re making a roster move and adjusting our rotation accordingly.”

“We don’t need another pitcher. We need a bat.”

“He’s from around here, you know. Grew up a big fan. And they say he can hit a little.”

“I can’t believe they’re gonna try playing through this rain. I’m soaked!”

“Suspended? What does that mean? And what about the concert?”

“He debuts tomorrow. Right after they finish yesterday’s game…whenever that is.”

And now: The Mets.

***

Rain, rain didn’t go away so easily. It wasn’t Saturday in the park rain, but it was present as Sunday at Citi Field began. Or continued. Not sure why I bothered going home in between. Not sure why I didn’t bring a full-fledged jacket when I returned. Not sure why I put so much stock in it being late June when it feels only nominally summery out there.

Joe and I chose this game long ago for no particular reason beyond prospective convenience. Its curiosity factor — off the charts as of Sunday morning — didn’t exist when he asked me if I wanted to go on June 28 and I said sure. Who knew it would loom as an idiosyncratic’s delight? They were ending a game that began the day before; they were beginning a career from scratch; they were presenting the architects of three No. 1 hit records, for goodness sake. All we were expecting to reach out and grab were Lucas Duda Growth Charts and all we were hoping for was to maybe not get so wet.

We got our charts. The wetness seemed predestined until a text from another friend offered an overhang. Sharon had cleverly rainchecked (from an “official game,” no less) her way into six dry seats. It might not rain all day Sunday as it did Saturday, but why find out? Joe and I accepted the gracious invitation to avoid unfriendly skies. Turned out we wouldn’t have been more than aggressively misted upon. After Saturday, though, who needed it? My schlep bag is still damp from that downpour.

***

There was indeed a game to complete, the one from the steady deluge. After a slight precipitation delay, it was offered to us almost cheekily. A ceremonial first pitch was thrown out even though we were picking up the action in the seventh inning. The national anthem was sung, too. Had Bobby Valentine been in the visitors’ dugout, he would have threaded a needle through the rule book and found the Met in violation of some sort of strict midgame protocol. Bryan Price was in the visitors’ dugout. Bryan Price has bigger problems. Bryan Price manages the Reds.

The Reds considered scoring in the top of the resumed seventh but ultimately rejected the concept as incompatible with their brand. They came pretty close anyway. It took three relievers — including both Tsuris brothers — to quell their advances. Then we seventh-inning stretched (more cheekiness). Then Skip Schumaker stretched as far as he cold to rob Ruben Tejada of a double in the left field corner. Then Skip Schumaker unstretched Lucas Duda’s double into a single and a 7-4 putout. The sun would make cameos, yet Skip Schumaker emerged as Sunday’s version of rain.

In the eighth, Juan Lagares robbed Jay Bruce of a home run. The Mets and Reds probably would have liked to have scored, but the Reds and Mets kept getting in their way.

***

And on these nudnik teams went. One could credit more defense and bullpen as stringent preventors of tallies, but one chooses not to. The Saturday leftovers were growing stale. The novelty was fading. The suspended game was making a nuisance of itself. It was great for fans of pop flies specifically and offensive futility in general. Also, if you liked the idea that time keeps on slippin, slippin’ into the future, it was ideal. If you didn’t like the idea of everything you were waiting for getting pushed back, this wasn’t your game.

Unless you were there, in which case it was all yours. Unlike me, Joe wasn’t there Saturday, and that fact confronted him with a conundrum. Joe scores every game he goes to. Sunday he was going. Saturday’s six innings were going to be there to greet him. How could a fiercely committed scorer start scoring a game in the middle of the action? Joe did the only sensible thing he could do, the sensible thing I guessed he would do after knowing him some 25 years. He retrofitted his scorebook with the six innings he hadn’t originally scored so he could set the stage for the seventh, eighth and ninth and any extra innings that happened to amble along through the mist.

Amble they did. The Mets didn’t score in the ninth when, with two on and two out, Michael Cuddyer remained under contract to the team that signed him last November. The Reds’ scouting report, the one that suggested, “pitch to Michael Cuddyer every chance you get — even if you’re playing someone other than the Mets or a sport other than baseball” — proved prescient.

Hey, whaddaya know: extras! The Reds threaten in the tenth, but don’t make good. The Mets use John Mayberry in the tenth to ensure an eleventh.

Let’s make like Schumaker and skip over the eleventh and twelfth. Suffice it to say they transpired and resulted in a thirteenth inning, thus ensuring more of Saturday’s game took place on Sunday than it did on Saturday. Because the Mets can’t hit, they were stuck on one run. Because the Reds can’t cope, they allowed the Mets to load the bases with nobody out in the bottom of the thirteenth. It was a rally for the ages; a rally for this age, at any rate. Dilson Herrera walked. Curtis Granderson singled past an inadequate Brandon Phillips leap. Ruben Tejada grounded to a shortstop who looked less comfortable than Wilmer Flores.

Duda from the growth chart was up. Dozens of growth charts got themselves unfolded, waved and mysteriously hung from the rafters (who thought to bring so much Fun-Tak to a ballpark?) The positive energy was too much for Joey Votto to bear, for when Lucas bounced unto him the absolutely perfect ball to fire home to force Herrera, thereby setting up Cuddyer’s inevitable inning-ending DP, he instead muffed it like crazy. Votto — who had earlier performed as a Bill Buckner tribute band called E-3 when he let a Granderson grounder scoot through his generous legs — couldn’t handle the bounce and the Mets, in spite of themselves and their 0-for-15 RISP inaction, won. They won Saturday’s game Sunday. They won despite scoring no more than two runs in thirteen innings, no more than two runs apiece across three games. Hell, they won each of those three games, all in a row.

Idiosyncratic, all right. And by the time Sunday’s baseball activities were concluded, those thirteen innings and the twenty-four hours at Le Mets that preceded them would be, if not totally forgotten, then mightily obscured.

Because we were ready to be formally introduced to our latest savior.

***

I figured Steven Matz would be bringing loads of family to the actual Sunday game for his major league debut. But who were all these other people wearing MATZ 32 tees before he’d thrown one pitch at this highest baseball level? They were, I decided, people who have been conditioned to expect deliverance in the form of one young arm after another. Such thinking has provided the subtext of the past four seasons, including the current edition.

We can’t wait for Harvey until we can’t we wait for Wheeler until we can’t wait for Syndergaard, not to mention we at least modestly anticipated the arrival of deGrom and Montero, though we’ve revised history a little to claim we had no idea the former existed (and we’ve lately lost track of the latter). We believe every morsel of hype fed to us where young pitchers are concerned. Every one of them will rise to the majors and succeed immediately. Then we’ll have too many pitchers, all of them great. The excess will be so obvious to all that somebody somewhere will be compelled to send us a low-cost power-hitting infielder who can actually field.

Funny how no trade is ever made and we can never concretely determine how much pitching is enough. We know we can’t have too many saviors, though. Never mind that pitching we’ve got and hitting we need. You can never have too much pitching. It’s why among our eight or so outstanding starters, one is on the DL, one is in Las Vegas and one has been grafted onto a rotation that seemed to have no vacancies.

But you can always make room for a savior. You can always find space in your t-shirt drawer for a MATZ 32. After Sunday, they’re not going to be able to make enough of those models to satisfy demand.

***

Who says the Mets never produce a hitter? They produced Steven Matz, perhaps the most productive hitter ever to come out of any box, certainly the best to emerge from a box marked pitcher.

He’s not misfiled, either. Pitching is clearly what got him here. Hitting, however, is why we will always cherish his maiden appearance in the big leagues.

Sunday’s de facto second game wasn’t necessarily poised from its late-afternoon first pitch to feel any different from those contests that had directly preceded it. We’d gotten so used to stellar starting pitching that we were only marginally impressed by it. What really got our attention, not to mention our goat, was the invisible hitting. We weren’t overjoyed that we’d just won games by scores of 2-0, 2-1 and 2-1; we were miffed that we couldn’t score more than two runs in any of those games. What good is winning if only some of your dreams are coming true?

Thus, we decided Steven Matz’s first game was, regardless of the savior possibilities inherent, an act of desperation. No matter what the kid does, it’s not like we’re gonna hit. And it’s not like we really know for certain what the kid’s gonna do.

Then we knew: he’d throw a terribly wild pitch to commence his career and moments later surrender a short, replay-certified home run to Phillips, the best Shea Stadium/Citi Field player who ever lived. The Reds were ahead, 1-0, after one batter; Matz’s ERA dwarfed Garrett Olson’s franchise-worst 108.00; and the 999th Met in team history might not save us from ourselves after all.

Or he might. We’d have to give him his entire start in order to find out.

***

This is what we found out about Steven Matz after he fell behind by a run.

• He’s a better pitcher than Garrett Olson. Way better. His ERA clambered down from unmeasurable to manageable to sparkling…if, in fact, an ERA can be said to matter after one game. Except for one pitch that Todd Frazier launched definitively over the left field fence, Matz did nothing wrong on the mound. He got out of what little trouble did arise, he fielded batted balls cleanly and he showed poise and command into the eighth. If his debut wasn’t the stuff of Dick Rusteck (still the only Met to pitch a complete game shutout in his first MLB appearance), it was right up there with Harvey’s and Wheeler’s and so forth. He belongs.

• He’s a better hitter than probably every one of his teammates, no matter any individual’s job description. It might not last — it probably won’t because it almost never does when the hitter is a pitcher — but have you ever seen a rookie come to bat and bring home runners like Matz did? Don’t bother sorting through phenoms past. You haven’t, within the realm of one-game sample sizes, seen a new Met like Matz at bat ever. He recorded three hits, drove in four runs, broke up a double play and…what? What else do you need, besides a revised lineup card next time he pitches, because how on earth do you justify batting someone of Matz’s potential and/or credentials behind the Mets’ relentless parade of eight-hitters? Booming double; well-placed singles; situational alertness; not bothering with batting gloves, even. Holy Don Robinson, this pitcher gave us the idea he can hit with the best of them and convinced us he can outhit the worst of them (a.k.a. the rest of the Mets’ batting order).

• He’s a happening. He’s a happening because he brought 130 friends and family from Suffolk County and because he’s been working his way back from Tommy John so long that the general manager who drafted him was Omar Minaya and because his favorite adolescent baseball memory involves Endy Chavez and he’s 24 yet looks 14 and he knows to professionally tip his cap when thunderously applauded and he lived up to every expectation we had for him and he built new expectations along the way and he exceeded those. We who were grumpy from a lack of offense even after Duda’s growth charts flapped victoriously roared without reservation for Steven Matz. We were holding out for a hero. We received a folk hero.

• He’s proof, as if we needed any more, that the designated hitter rule belongs on the ash heap of history. If, say, Cuddyer as hypothetical DH had gone 3-for-3, we might be curious what kind of hallucinogenics they were using at Blue Smoke, but we wouldn’t otherwise be terribly moved beyond vague approval. But Matz going 3-for-3? The pitcher? Never mind the Colon sideshow. This is a pitcher not just helping his own cause. This is a pitcher defining the cause. Let other pitchers pray for run support. Matz answered everybody’s prayers before they could be formulated.

How sophisticated do we all feel in the moment a pitcher makes solid contact? Look at me, I know enough to treat this event as extraordinary. How stimulated does that sensation leave us? The pitcher swings…the pitcher hits…the pitcher runs…the pitcher is on first…maybe second. Oh god…oh god…OH GOD!

Seriously, witnessing a pitcher truly fill the role of hitter may be the closest thing baseball has to adult entertainment.

Every National Leaguer’s soul soared when Matz connected and reached base for a third time. Every one of us knew we had found the silver bullet to refute every silly argument to be made for not letting the pitcher hit. If the pitcher didn’t hit, then all we would have had out of Steven Matz was an encouraging outing presumably going to waste because — oh, by the way — the rest of the Mets continued to mostly not hit in that second game Sunday. With Matz pitching and Matz hitting and Matz doing it all, the Mets discovered a run total higher than two and a win streak that reached four.

It helped that the Reds are brutal. It helped that their scouting reports didn’t factor in Matz’s hitting ability. It helped that they’ve been playing shabby baseball for close to a year. It helps, too, that the Mets are as dependably able at Citi Field as they are astoundingly inept away from it.

But mostly Steven Matz helped himself and helped us all and it was only his beginning.

***

Poor Steve Miller. Rained out. Postponed. Rescheduled. Abandoned. Maybe 2,000 of us remained to watch him and his band perform postgame. The Mets showed this rock and blues legend so little respect that while he sang, the ribbon board flashed an ad for the Heart postgame concert next month, as if that’s the one you should stick around for. They couldn’t have waited until the act they’d been plugging for months had unplugged their instruments?

If they felt like afterthoughts, they didn’t show it. Fifty minutes, a dozen songs, solid musicianship, two band members wearing Mets jerseys, enough relevant patter to assure you they weren’t mailing it in. Steve Miller dedicated “Abracadabra” to “Stevie Matz” for all the “magic’ he made before they came on, though if you think about it, “Swingtown” would have been more appropriate. Mr. Miller even told us we were going to the World Series, presumably on a big ol’ Met airliner.

We probably have to start winning some games on the road first. Gosh, I hope Matz travels as well as he hits

33 comments to Absurdist Drama Adds Prestige Character

  • Dave

    Oh man, if we had the DL, instead we would’ve been talking about how many DP’s Cuddyer grounded into and “great, here’s another young stud who can lead the league in 2-1 losses one day.” And I want Grandpa Matz to get Steve Gelb’s job.

  • Mikey

    did you guys catch grandpa Matz yelling “holy shit!” after the third hit? I didn’t notice until watching highlights on ESPN.

    that second game yesterday was worth the wait for sure. I was having Jon Matlack flashbacks while watching the Reds broadcast on Direc TV (those morons blacked out the continuation of the first game and I think part of the second, but a few innings in I realized 728 carried Gary and Ron….whew), and then I heard Gary and Ron mention Matlack and Mike Hampton, which is dead on. Didn’t Matlack wear 32?

    anyway like I told another of my long suffering Mets fan pals, they most likely have not turned a corner, but at least they are at times really exciting to watch this season. I was encouraging Matz from my living room, yelling things a coach would like “great job dude!” and my wife says “who the hell are you talking to?”

    • Dave

      At times exciting to watch, but that description right now probably only fits 4 of the starters and the closer. Imagine if we actually had a few position players who were exciting to watch. And yes, Matlack wore 32. Matz has a similar high leg kick. I’d love to see if, on top of everything else, he can pick runners off like Matlack could, he had that almost-a-balk move to first that some lefties use, and it was real good.

      • Eric

        Dilson Herrera has potential to excite as a poor man’s Jose Reyes, albeit at 2nd base. Quick in the field. Some pop. Explosive on the basepaths. Now, he just needs to polish the roughness and get on base.

        • Dave

          I agree, although he’s still at the “needs more seasoning” phase, and unfortunately we’ve all seen guys go either way from there. Tools are there, I think he can become the multi-tool offensive threat that Jordany Valdespin didn’t.

          • Eric

            True. There’s no such thing as a can’t-miss prospect in baseball.

            Valdespin. I had hopes for that one.

  • Mikey

    by the way, I may be a purist in this way, but I sure loved watching Matz wearing the Mets’ traditional home uniform. I really wish they would stick to just home and away, but I’m not working for the Mets marketing department either.

    • mikeL

      agree Mikey on the uni’s.
      i also loved watching matz batting sans gloves…and of course, taking out phillips to break up the double play.
      he’s a one-man example of gutty fundamentals on top of his impressive hitting and pitching skills.
      and yes grandpa’s ‘holy shit’ was priceless – caught it in real time and smiled.

      • Shawn B

        Double agree on the uniforms. Hate the blues. Despise the Mr. Met logo appearing on a cap or jersey . . . And, Matz looks like he can bunt, too. Something NOBODY else on this team can. He squared fundamentally. He didn’t offer at balls out of the strike zone. He didn’t stab at the ball. He has a clue! Let’s go Matz!

  • LA Jake

    That was as memorable a debut as a player can have and it was awesome his family could be there to enjoy it. With Murphy returning tomorrow, here’s the lineup I would roll out:

    Granderson RF
    Murphy 3B
    Duda 1B
    Matz LF
    deGrom SS
    Syndergaard 2B
    Lagares CF
    Plawecki C
    Pitcher

    • Eric

      Tejada at 2B, Syndergaard at 1B …

      Granderson RF
      Tejada 2B
      Murphy 3B
      Matz LF
      Syndergaard 1B
      DeGrom SS
      Lagares CF
      Plawecki C
      Pitcher

  • Rochester John

    Besides Grandpa’s “Holy Shit”, there were also Jay Bruce’s holy shit realization that Herrera actually had the nerve to go first to third on him, and my own “Holy Shit! Matz just took out the second baseman!” (It’s fun saying shit on the interweb.)

  • Tad

    I would have started scoring with the 7th. How often do you get a chance to do that?

  • ljcmets

    Mad Mets!

  • Steve D

    Jewish lefthander from New York…and they gave him number 32. Will he play on the holidays?

  • APV

    We used to sing “The Joker” on the bus after baseball games in high school. Not gonna lie it was fun. At least the Mets are really stepping up their game in terms of post-game performers this year. Miller is underrated (he took guitar lessons from Les Paul himself!) and Heart is in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame — and whatever you think of their mid-to-late 80s pop excursion, they belong.

    Didn’t watch yesterday until the 5th inning so I got to see the last couple of innings from Matz and his two-run single over Phillips’ head. That was awesome. Nothing better than a local boy making good. Obviously, we are hoping Matz will be more than a one-game wonder but he, his friends, and his family will have this day to remember forever.

  • Will in Central NJ

    Sitting in the Field Level with my family, I’m moderately surprised (and pleased) that no one from the Promenade level launched a Cessna-sized Lucas Duda growth chart paper airplane. All the action was on the field, from game one to game two to the last note of the Steve Miller Band concert. The skies mostly cooperated, and the results were good!

  • Eric

    Hit-and-run grounder through the vacated SS hole, because a pitcher won’t pull, like a pitcher won’t hit it over the head of one of the fastest CFers in baseball. (When was the last time any team hit and run with a pitcher?) Old-fashioned baseball. Good stuff. More fun to watch than a HR.

  • Left Coast Jerry

    Did Steve Miller dedicate Take the Money and Run to Michael Cuddyer (or Chris Young or Jason Bay)? Perhaps the next concert after Heart can be Dire Straits. They can sing Money for Nothing to the same trio, as well as a song for all the position players on the team, the Sultans of Swing and Miss.

    • APV

      Ha ha ha ha! Good one LCJ! Was gonna say wearing a Mets uniform causes even the healthiest of players to contract Industrial Disease.

      Those two songs from Dire Straits used to be Chris Woodward’s walkup music when he played here in 2005-06, which may be why I kinda liked Woody. Ok, he probably wasn’t a DS fan and the Mets A/V guy probably chose that for him, but any opportunity to hear that band at a ballpark makes me smile. And I smiled a lot at Shea in 2006 given I heard DS a lot and the Mets won a lot.

      • Money for Nothing? Those are Cuddyer Straits.

        Been making the same association with Chris Woodward since 2005.

        • Rob E

          Cuddyer Straits ?!?!? That’s why you get the big bucks, man! How long until we get a Harvey-deGrom-Wheeler-Thor-Matz “Brothers in Arms” poster?

          • Eric

            Don’t forget to squeeze Familia into that poster. All those 2-1 wins in their future as Mets co-aces aren’t going to save themselves.

        • Ken K. in NJ

          I’ll see your Cuddyer Straits and raise you a Dilson Schmilsson on his next runner on third with less than 2 out first pitch popout.

  • Bob

    A Sunday to remember–
    Grandpa Matz & family go into Mets lore.
    Good Karma…..

    Mets fan since Polo Grounds– 1963

  • Jestaplero

    I was joking to a friend that Matz should start in left field when he’s not pitching, because I doubt Cuddyer has had many 4-RBI games as a Met. Then, curious, I looked it up: Cuddyer has never had a 4-RBI game as a Met. He has not had a 3-RBI game as a Met. He has only two 3-hit games this year. He has 6 RBI’s in the month of June. Matz had 2/3 of that total in one game, which I didn’t need to tell you, but did anyway.

  • Old Dude

    Let’s hope Matz keeps pitching and hitting. Consistently. That’s the thing. Right?

    About the uniforms…at least the players aren’t so embarrassed they won’t put their names on the back.

  • […] grandpa. Let’s get another look at his delightful sandwich. Let’s relive those three hits from Sunday, which is as many as Steven Matz’s teammates collected without his help Tuesday. Let us tally up […]